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The Purpose of Pain and Why It Hurts

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Why It Hurts Books Cover

Over 116 million Americans suffer from chronic pain, and treating that pain costs over $635 billion annually in the U.S. alone. Answers to the centuries-old question, “Why must we feel pain?” are finally available. Kristi Hughes writes.


The new book by Harvard-trained pain specialist Aneesh Singla, MD, Why It Hurts: A Physician’s Insights on the Purpose of Pain (January 17, 2017), dives deep into the science, revealing the mysteries of pain and offering the newest research and discoveries on why we have pain, how aggressively should we treat pain, what is “good” pain versus “bad” pain and how do we become better equipped to use our pain as the powerful adaptive tool that it can be.

“I hope to help readers develop resilience, whether they are coping with chronic pain, caring for someone who is, or simply seeking a deeper understanding of a profoundly important subject,” says Dr. Singla.

In this timely book, Dr. Singla offers a physician's point-of-view as he takes a journey through medicine, history, and the world around us to provide some insights into our experience of pain, what we can do about it, and why it hurts in the first place. Using real patient examples, he offers an honest and insightful look at how we must balance our desire to "cure" every type of pain with the urgent need to manage the colossal problem of chronic pain.

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As the opioid crisis in the United States is reaching critical levels, we live in a world where misinformation about the nature of pain is all around us. Countless books offer miracle cures for all kinds of pain, with varying levels of success. Unlike other books in this category, this book is not about a miracle cure to solve your pain - but rather a deep dive into why we all have pain and why it may not be all bad. Pain can be a transformative experience, and the idea of resilience and how pain can and does make us stronger is often ignored.

In Why It Hurts, Dr. Singla takes a sobering look at how we try and manage pain based on his work as a practicing pain specialist in the nation's largest pain practice. How each of us experience and handle our pain is deeply personal. This book offers a lens from which to see pain as more than just an inconvenience. It offers a new vision of why it hurts and what we should do about it. Why It Hurts also includes the following topics:

  • How aggressively should you treat pain
  • What is good pain vs. bad pain
  • Psychological pain and its relationship to physical pain
  • Finding the root cause of pain, like sciatica or migraines
  • How to apply a methodical approach to pain management
  • That pain is a transformative process that helps us learn and grow
  • How to set expectations around pain -- limiting over-treatment of pain
  • The value of pain: it serves as an alarm system that protects us from injury

“Although Why It Hurts is about pain, on a deeper level it is about resilience, healing, and growth,” Dr. Singla adds. “Pain helps reveal the root causes of what ails us. It is a highly developed alarm system the body uses to help us prevent further injury and properly attend to our underlying conditions.”

Dr. Aneesh Singla is Medical Director of The Rockville Center of National Spine and Pain Centers in Rockville, MD. He attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he stayed on for medical school, and graduated with Honors. He spent additional time there obtaining a Masters in Public Health, with a focus on Health Policy and Administration. Dr. Singla completed his Residency in Anesthesiology at Massachusetts General Hospital and subsequently completed an Interventional Pain Management Fellowship at Brigham and Women's Hospital, both affiliated with Harvard Medical School. During his residency, Dr. Singla also completed a fellowship at the Harvard/Partners Institute for Health Policy, where he did research in Patient Safety. Dr. Singla has served as the Chair of the Massachusetts Medical Society (MMS) Resident and Fellow Section and was also a member of the Board of Directors (MMS Committee on Publications) for the New England Journal of Medicine.

Written by Kristi Hughes